Young rocket builders to touch down at nationalsBy RICK FOSTER , Associated Press
Apr. 20, 2013 12:21 AM ET
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — A team of rocket boys from Attleboro hopes to reach new heights next month when they compete for the first time in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge.
A team composed of middle and high school students will be competing against 100 elite units from across the country.
The team — which is made up of students from St. John's Evangelical School, The Wheeler School in Providence, and Attleboro High School — head to the finals which take place May 11 in The Plains, Va., just outside Washington.
"It's exciting seeing something you made and tested on your own go out and succeed or fail in competition," said St. John's student and team leader Brian Hohlfeld, 13.
Hohlfeld and classmate Freddie Thomson make up the team along with Tim Clancy of Wheeler and Adam and Owen Bacchiochi, both of Attleboro High School. The team, known as the Wavelet Tech Launchers, is sponsored by Hohlfeld's parents' company, Wavelet Technologies. Rockets are designed and built by the students from balsa wood and cardboard.
The Wavelet-sponsored team has been existence for the past five years, but this is the first time the local squad has reached national level competition.
Hohlfeld's dad Bob acts as team adviser and brings plenty of aerospace and safety expertise.
Bob Hohlfeld is a research professor at Boston University whose company is involved in research and development for aerospace and medical technology. During the 1990s, he served as an on-the-ground science consultant on two space shuttle missions.
The rocket boys qualified for the nationals at a regional competition last month in Amesbury where the Launchers were one of only two teams to score high enough for the nationals.
The Team America challenge, sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry, integrates science with the fun and excitement of designing and launching model rockets. At the Amesbury competition, competitors were required to rocket a raw hen's egg to a height of 750 feet and return it to earth without breaking within a tight time window.
Rockets are launched safely using remote ignition systems that keep competitors and spectators isolated from the missiles.
Preparing to qualify was no simple matter. Students had to work out complicated math problems, understand physics principles, as well as work out design elements with computer-aided design software.
According to the competition's sponsors, the Team America challenge is aimed at encouraging students nationwide to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A total of 725 teams took part this year nationwide, representing schools, 4-H chapters and Civil Air Patrol units.
If the local boys do well at the nationals, the Launchers could be in for additional honors including a shot at more than $60,000 in scholarships and a chance to participate in NASA's Student Launch initiative. The Team America challenge is now in its 11th year.